Friday, August 31, 2007

Race vs. Ethnicity: A woman of color's perspective

I wrote this article back in 1996, two years after I started working at the Boston Globe. I came across it while doing an archive search for something else and, in re-reading it, thought I should reprint it here.

The distinction between race and ethnicity is an important one for me. I consider myself to be "multi-ethnic," not "mixed race," in part because there is no way to guess at the country or culture in which I was raised by looking at my skin. Growing up in a university town in the Northeast, having attended the same private prep school for 13 years, as a child and a teen I identified more as a WASP -- in spite of the fact that I am neither White nor Anglo-Saxon nor Prostetant -- than I did as a person of color, no matter how I looked to other people. I left my cushy suburb to go to Syracuse University, where I couldn't understand why people were all of a sudden greeting me as "Sister," or speaking to me in rapid-fire Spanish, or saying that I "sure spoke English good" and asking me where I was from.

This article was reprinted in several text books, including Interactions: A Thematic Reader, in which it was re-titled "I'm Just Me" and appears alongside writing by Anna Quindlen, Maya Angelou, former President Jimmy Carter, and others.

You can access the original (for a fee) here at It's been 12 years since it was published, so of course certain details have changed -- I definitely no longer weigh 115 pounds! -- but the idea still stands.

October 5, 1996

Race Needs 'Other' Option

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

This is me: caramel-colored skin, light-brown eyes, brown-black hair with a few silver threads just to the right of my temple. I have a few freckles, like cocoa powder dusted under my right eye. I'm 5 foot 3, 115 pounds, was a field hockey goalie, still am a fencer.

This is me: I have my mother's Persian features, my father's Haitian coloring and curly hair that's somewhere in between. When I was little, I desperately wanted my younger brother's graceful hands and my youngest brother's huge green eyes.

This is me: On census forms, aptitude tests and applications, whenever possible I check the box for "other" after the question about race. When there's no "other" option, I check four boxes: white (German and French on my father's side), Asian (Persian-Indian on my mother's side), Native peoples (Arawak Indian on my father's side) and black (an African great-grandfather on my father's side). If the instructions limit me to only one box, I skip it entirely.

One would think that institutions could have come up with a different method of classifying people by now. It's almost 1997. According to 1990 census information, the number of "other" people has grown to 9.8 million -- a 45 percent increase since 1980 -- and it's still on the rise. "Mixed" marriages doubled between 1980 and 1992, when 1.2 million were reported. And "mixed" is more than just black and white, though those unions have increased also -- by 50 percent, to 250,000, since 1980.

"Mixed" relationships are nothing new, even though the media still sometimes treats them as though they are. My family's been doing it for four generations. Five, if you count me and my blond-haired, blue-eyed boyfriend.

There's a massive push to include a "mixed-race" box on the census for the year 2000, but SATs, GREs and other aptitude tests can surely rethink their designations more than once a decade. Why isn't there a "mixed" box on all those other forms yet? Or instructions that tell us to "check all that apply?" Or, better still, a new question: "What group do you identify with?"

Natives of Zimbabwe, which used to be Rhodesia, who are descended from that country's British settlers are just as African as natives of Ethiopia, but in the US we wouldn't call them African Americans. Yet we would give that label to the child of a Caucasian woman and a man from the West Indies, even though the child's connection to the African continent is distant, if it exists at all.

Why do we call mixed marriages "interracial"? Isn't it your ethnicity -- the culture in which you are raised -- that defines who you are, more so than your race? Race is part of the equation, of course, but the color of your skin doesn't necessarily dictate the culture and traditions that surround you while you're growing up.

I grew up in Princeton, N.J. It was very sheltered -- kind of like growing up wrapped in cotton, which I think was a good thing. When I left Princeton to go to college in Syracuse, N.Y., I was naive about racial matters. I still think I am. I was surprised by the looks I'd get when I walked around on campus at night with my friends, and by the fliers I got year after year inviting me to attend the "African-American Orientation" at the student center. I didn't understand why, when I was reporting a stalker, the campus police officer told me that I spoke English very well.

Then I realized that people were looking at my skin and deciding that I was African American; or looking at my features and deciding I was Indian; or listening to me talk and not being able to place me at all.

People still try to figure out my background. But now, instead of just looking at me and wondering, they ask me questions like "So, were you born here?" Or "Where in India are your parents from?" And "What do you consider yourself?" A friend's father once asked, point-lank, "What exactly is Lylah?" ("Female," my friend replied.)

These are the answers I give them: I was born and raised in Princeton, N.J. My mother is from India. My father is from Haiti. As for what I consider myself . . .

I'm just me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Strap 'Em In

These booster seats are really cool: very easy to install, comfortable, and they don't look like traditional car seats -- a real plus for those older kids for whom they were designed. The backless booster helps position the seatbelt properly across your child. They work with the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system that's built in to most newer cars -- just slide the booster into your back seat, give it a push, and it locks in place. (If you have an older car, you can still use the seat).
August 26, 2007

Feeling strapped? It's almost the law

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

A bill passed last month in the Massachusetts Senate requires that you strap your child into a booster seat until he is 8 years old and 57 inches tall, an increase over the current 6 years, 40 pounds limit. The bill still needs House approval, but the people at Magna Aftermarket Inc. have already acted on it, offering the clek seat belt-positioning booster specially designed for bigger kids. It's called olli but there's nothing babyish about it. It's built like a backless car seat, with plenty of padding, and features rigid fasteners that latch directly to the anchors built into the back seats of newer cars (the seats are safe with older cars, too). The booster weighs a mere 5 pounds and costs $89.99 (extra seat covers are $29.99), comes in eight colors, and is available at Wild Child, 397 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, 781-483-3566, and online at [More]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Exploring Faith

Tenaz Dubash is a New York-based filmmaker who wrote, narrated, and produced "In the Footsteps of Our Forefathers," a documentary about 35 young Zoroastrians from North America as they travel through Iran, the birthplace of the religion. One of her more-recent works focuses again on Zoroastrians, this time delving into the conversion/inclusion debate that has been raging in the community for decades. It's called "Crisis In Faith: Zoroastrians Today."

In 2004, she interviewed me as part of that project. It was a fascinating experience.

Visit her homepage to learn more about her and to see the trailer to her latest work. (Yes, that is a picture of me, my husband, and our youngest daughter there. It's a still from the documentary.)

More Than Meets the Eye

I always have an eye out for things that can do double-duty. Plus, I hate carrying a purse. How cool would it be to head out to the pool with only your bathingsuit, towel, and flip-flops?

July 29, 2007

Going once, twice -- soled!

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

When you're at the beach, do you slip your wallet into your bag and hope no one grabs it? Or do you keep it on you and stay out of the water? Women can keep the essentials -- a key, credit card, ID, and a little cash -- hidden in plain sight with a pair of these slick sandals by Reef. Appropriately called "Stash," the flip-flops have a slim, slide-out drawer hidden in the sole. They cost about $40 at Eastern Mountain Sports (1041 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; 617-254-4250) and online at,, and [More]

Tripping the Group Dynamic

This story was a lot of fun to write. It's a well known fact that most Americans don't take full advantage of the vacation time they've earned, and many people complain that they don't get to spend time with the people they most enjoy being around. Put the two notions together, and a travel trend is born: Vacationing, as a group, with your friends and family members.

By "traveling with family members," I don't mean "Mom, Dad, and the Kids hit the beach." I mean extended family members choosing a destination and then having a little reunion there; taking a cruise with a bunch of your cousins; or even just getting your closest girlfriends together to go to a place you've always wanted to visit. Like Tuscany.

April 29, 2007

Tripping the group dynamic
Homemade entourages having the fun

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Deb Dumais celebrated her 50th birthday last July with several of her closest friends. For 20 days. In Tuscany.

It's the latest trend in travel, according to Judy Randall , president and CEO of Randall Travel Marketing , a travel and tourism research company in North Carolina: groups of friends and family traveling together, rather than individually or as part of a traditionally organized group tour.

"It's really driven more by time poverty than by anything else," Randall said, pointing out that people in the United States not only get less paid vacation than workers in other countries, but also don't use up the time. "Vacationing with friends is a way to "kill two birds with one stone," she said. "The shared experience makes it more pleasurable." ... [More]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

And You Thought Your Laws Were Silly

I picked up this book because I needed a laugh -- and I got it. There are a lot of bizarre laws out there. Rich Smith set out to break as many of them as he could in one trip.

September 14, 2006

Funny look at silly laws warrants a read

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

In Massachusetts, it is illegal to wear a goatee in public unless you have paid a special licensing fee. You may not fish in your pajamas in Chicago. When in New Jersey, it is against the law to offer a cigarette to a monkey.

Hundreds of ridiculous laws exist in all 50 states, and intrepid journalism student Rich Smith decided to break as many as he could, chronicling his adventure in his book ``You Can Get Arrested for That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree." ...[More]

Kids' Music that Parents Will Love

I pitched this as a longer piece for a Boston Globe Magazine issue on parents and parenting; it got whittled down into an 80-word blurb that, while pretty, doesn't really tell you anything about the music. Here's the link to the feature; a more in-depth version is below.

July 8, 2007

Play It Again
Children's CDs that are music to everyone's ears

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

If cloying Barney has been banned from your stereo and you've listened to Raffi one too many times, don't give up: Not all kids' CDs are sickeningly sweet, and some even offer variety. Groove to the Music, from Nick Jr.'s The Backyardigans, mixes musical genres, and Mary Had a Little Amp and School House Rock! Rocks offer renditions of familiar songs by big-name artists like Madonna and Biz Markie, respectively. Songs From the Street is a three-disc set of Sesame Street classics, and They Might Be Giants's Here Come the ABCs is sure to be a hit in your house. ... [More]

Not much information there, I know; it kills me that newspapers and magazines have become so style-over-substance. Here's a little more about each disc -- plus links, of course (prices are from

1.) Groove to the Music, $11.99. From the hit Nick Jr. show "The Backyardigans," the songs here are sung by actual children and vary by genre, including Rockabilly vikings and Salsa-singing super heroes. Their eponymous debut CD is great, too.

2.) Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks , $7.97. The classic educational shorts from the 1970s and '80s with a modern edge; check out "Three is the Magic Number" sung by Blind Melon.

3.) Mary Had a Little Amp, $10.99. The songs in this compilation are gentle and sweet, sung by big names like Madonna and R.E.M., but not cloying. The disc was originally created to raise money for an US-wide preschool education initiative.

4.) Songs from the Street, $44.99. This three-CD set covers 30 years of songs from PBS's Sesame Street, one disc per decade. Did you know that the Pointer Sisters sang that shrieky pinball song? Me neither. And dig Cab Calloway crooning "The Heidy-Ho Man."

5.) Here Comes the ABCs, $12.99. Upbeat alterna-pop stars They Might Be Giants sing songs that are quirky enough to keep the kids interested and fresh enough to keep adults happy. This CD is actually a CD/DVD combo disc; the videos are just as charming.

Dining Out: Cobblestones

Back when I used to eat out a lot more, I used to review suburban restaurants for The Globe's NorthWest section. Cobblestones offers higher-end family fare with enormous portions; the chocolate torte with ganache is a huge, rich slice of heaven.

Septemeber 28, 2003

Cobblestones Restaurant

Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Right next to the Masonic Temple and a few steps from City Hall, Cobblestones Restaurant has been a fixture in downtown Lowell since 1994; the building has been there even longer. ... [More]

Greeting Cards Do Double Duty

Every year for almost 10 years now, I've written about the holiday cards sold by local non-profit organizations in the Boston area. The feature has run in different sections of The Boston Globe; it was in the Sunday Magazine for the last two years. The cards are almost always quite striking, sometimes showcasing artwork created by the people the organization helps, often displaying art donated by local artists. Take a look:

November 19, 2006

Comfort and Joy
Give a little, get a little with
holiday greeting cards that support local causes.

By Lylah M. Alphonse

It's the perfect opportunity to spread good cheer: Your holiday wishes can help others when you send cards that raise money for a cause. ... [More]

November 20, 2005

Cause for Greetings
Sending good cheer
while supporting good works.

By Lylah M. Alphonse

... Area artists donate designs - which range from whimsical watercolors, simple graphics, and snowy scenes of Boston landmarks to vibrant paintings, ethereal prints, and striking photographs - and the images are printed on high-quality card stock. Most cards are nondenominational, bearing wishes for peace and happiness, but ones specifically for Christmas or Hanukkah are also available. Depending on the size of your order, some cards can be customized as well. It's an easy way to make your holiday spending do a little more; the funds raised can help make a difference right here at home. ... [More]

You get the idea. The older holiday card stories are in the Globe's archives, which you can search online at

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


The thing that struck me most about "The Woman From Hamburg" by Hanna Krall was this: Every story in it is true. They are stories of people lost to the Holocaust, and it's important that they are read and remembered.

July 12, 2005

Spare voices recountimmeasurable sorrow

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

''The Woman From Hamburg and Other True Stories" is a collection of stark portraits of people who lived and died during the Holocaust. Originally written in Polish by journalist Hanna Krall and translated into English by Madeline G. Levine, the book is filled with powerful, unadorned prose. ... [More]

Lylah in the News

For an editor, being interviewed for a story feels a bit like being in front of the camera when you're used to peering out through the lense. When I'm "in the news," it usually has something to do with Zoroastrianism; in this case, it was a reaction to a declaration made by the Parsi high priests in Mumbai:

April 28, 2003

US Parsis Criticise Priests' Edict

The Rediff Special/Monika Joshi in New York

... The resolution, published in Jam-e-Jamshed, a weekly published in Mumbai for the Parsi community, March 23, declared that marriages of Parsi Zoroastrian men or women to people of other faiths are invalid under the religion. It also declared the children of such marriages would not be admitted into the Zoroastrian faith. ...

Lylah M. Alphonse, an editor with The Boston Globe, takes the same view. "I think this resolution is ridiculous," she says. "Instead of seizing the chance to bring up the children of mixed religious marriages and teach them to be dedicated Zoroastrians, our high priests have decided to preserve that by ex-communicating the people," she adds. "It seems the only preservation we have is of a relic in a museum." ... [More]

Post-9/11 Coverage

I was in India on Sept. 11, in Hyderabad for my grandfather's funeral. I was one of those travellers hop-scotching the world, trying to get back to the States as fast as I could. I ended up in Amsterdam with both of my brothers; they went cafe-hopping and shopping, I called in to The Globe and got put to work.

September 16, 2001

Stranded travelers hopscotch Europe in quest to get back to US

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

AMSTERDAM - As international airlines resumed flying to the United States and flight schedules inched toward normalcy yesterday, thousands of people stranded in Europe since Tuesday's terrorist strikes scrambled to return home. Those who had decided to spend their extra time doing a little more sightseeing were racing to rail stations, trying to get back to their original point of departure for the United States. ... [More]

Have Kids, Will Travel

This story was a long time in the works. Here's the background: I have five kids, three of them by marriage, two of them by birth. They range in age from 13-years old to 10-months old, and when we travel, we haul around a lot of stuff. I started keeping an eye out for gear and gadgets that would make our lives easier -- and by "make our lives easier" I mean "allow me to get from Point A to Point B with my sanity more or less intact." Et voila: A handy list of 10 things that I think are absolutely essential when traveling, anywhere, with kids.

June 10, 2007

Kid stuff to soften the realities of family travel

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Gone are the days when you could keep the kids amused with a rousing game of "I Spy" while on the road. And the threat to "go home right now!" has the same hollow ring as back in the day. Here are 10 products that will take the edge off getting there with children and make things easier once you arrive. ... [More]

There's a gorgeous slide-show of the products to go with it, too.

Wondering what the 10 products are? Well, here you go! (Click on the story itself for more details)

1.) A great bag: Sasha's mini Bucket Bag from Howda Designz or the clever Skyway backpack (which has zippered compartments and a detachable lunch box).

2.) Entertainment: A dual-screen DVD player for the car, preferably with headphone jacks, like this one by Disney or this one by Axion.

3.) Drinks: Juice Pal holders add handles to most standard-size juice boxes or pouches.

4.) Snacks: The Snack-Trap by Made for Mom (get a 20% discount until Sept. 30 with code 20globe).

5.) Avoiding nausea: Motion sickness relief bands are a drug-free way to keep nausea at bay.

6.) Non-electronic entertainment: Klutz offers a wide range of kid-friendly on-the-go activities. I love their Kids Travel Backseat Survival Kit.

7.) Sleep: Lilly Gold's Nap-Sac is a diaper bag that opens out into a changing station and also can be used as a bassinet.

8.) Tracking devices: The Giggle Bug toddler tracker works similarly to those fobs that help you find your car keys. Except this one's louder. And you clip it onto your kid.

9.) A great stroller: The Sit 'n Stand LX is a stroller with a toddler-friendly jump seat. It's not much bigger than a regular stroller -- definitely a plus in a crowded airport.

10.) Quick diaper changes: The Pronto mini-changer by Skip Hop keeps everything you need for a diaper change in a compact, easy-to-grab clutch.

Introducing: Chicken Xacuti

Another great Indian place, this one offers specialties from the Western seaside state of Goa (as its name, Cafe Goa, implies). Westford is kind of a haul from Boston, but the food here is worth it. This little blurb ran on Page 2 of the Boston Globe's "Food" section, in a column called "Short Orders."

May 30, 2007

Spice and heat from India’s seaside state of Goa

You can easily satisfy cravings for North Indian food around Boston, and some restaurants offer dosas and other South Indian delicacies. But unless you have your heart set on a fiery, vinegary vindaloo, it's hard to find specialties from the seaside state of Goa. Located on India's west coast, Goa was colonized by the Portuguese, and their influence is still evident in the dishes, which are known by the liberal use of tiny, hot chilies, the tang of vinegar, and the sweet silkiness of coconut milk. Chicken xacuti ($15.95) at Cafe Goa in Westford is a gentle example of this tiny state's distinctive cuisine. It's lush and smooth, with a coconut base and sparks of fresh ginger, which lend both spice and heat. Or look for other Goan specialties, such as shrimp balchao or a traditional Goan fish curry.

Cafe Goa, 175 Little Road (Rt. 110), Westford, 978-399-0009.

-- Lylah M. Alphonse [More]

More Access Than You Can Shake A Stick At

When your Blackberry isn't enough...

May 20, 2007

It's pocket-size access to the Web

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

It's convenient to check e-mail on your cellphone, but the tiny screen, tinier keys, and abbreviated display can make for tough reading -- especially if you want to surf the Internet. The PocketSurfer by DataWind lets you check actual HTML pages, complete with graphics and java scripts. The slim, checkbook-size device is faster than cellphone Internet access; a page takes about 7 seconds to load, compared with 1-3 minutes for a cellphone. An internal antenna and backlit display make for easy access wherever you have cellphone coverage.

The device works with any Bluetooth-enabled phone on almost any cellular network, and a generously sized QWERTY keyboard makes data entry a breeze. It costs $199 , with a $9.99 per month Internet access fee, or get the PocketSurfer with ifetime unlimited Internet service provider service for $299. Don't have a phone with Bluetooth? DataWind offers adapters for about $30. Available at (800-263-9433). [More]

Shake Your Ice-Cream Maker

This is a cool little gadget that lets you whip up a pint of something smooth and creamy with practially no effort, and definitely no hand-cranking.

January 11, 2006

What's shaking?

It may be icy outdoors, but there's something about ice cream that's satisfying even on blustery days. You can make a pint of the sweet treat in about 20 minutes -- no electricity or tedious hand cranking required -- in the Play & Freeze Ice Cream Maker by Industrial Revolution (about $29). Just pack the outer chamber of the hard plastic ball with ice cubes and rock salt, pour the ice-cream mixture into the inner chamber, shake or roll the ball for 20 minutes, and you've got about a pint of rich, smooth ice cream to top your favorite cake. At REI or, .L. Bean stores or -- Lylah M. Alphonse [More]

Authentic Indian Food? Come and Get It

Looking for good, authentic Indian Food outside Boston's city limits? Here's the scoop, whether you're looking for Northern or Southern delicacies.

October 9, 2005

The Boston Globe Magazine

The Most Authentic Restaurants
Indian, Greek, Mexican, Thai, Italian, and more

By Alison Arnett, Sheryl Julian, Joe Yonan, Lylah M. Alphonse, Ann Cortissoz, Devra First, James Reed, Betsy Block, Jennifer M. Ivers, Catherine MacPherson, and Lise Stern

With the city awash in ethnic eateries, we set out to discover who really cooks it up right - whose shepherd's pie tastes straight from an Irish farmhouse kitchen, whose shredded pork in garlic sauce captures the genuine flavors of Shanghai, whose salmon tagine mimics true Moroccan cooking, whose tomato sauce is spot-on Sardinian, whose brown bread and baked beans would make longtime New Englanders proud. Hit these 29 restaurants, and take a virtual trip around the world. ... [More]

Don't feel like navigating through the whole article? (It's a big one, with multiple writers, that ran in the Globe's Sunday Magazine.) Here's my blurb, focusing on what I felt was the most-authenic Indian restaurant in the Greater Boston Area.

Indian cooking differs radically from region to region: Northern India is famous for its tandoori dishes, tomatoey curries, and flat-breads like nan and paratha; southern Indian food is mostly vegetarian, with creamy, often coconut-based sauces and condiments, and is usually served with some form of rice.

Almost all of the Indian restaurants in the Boston area offer northern Indian food, with a few regional dishes thrown in. A great choice is Cafe of India in Harvard Square, where the tandoori chicken is succulent and done to a turn - no easy feat. Its saucy, mostly northern Indian curries are also quite good: the chicken tikka masala is tangy and complex, and the lamb dishes, like the rogan josh, are meltingly tender and flavorful.

In Billerica, Masalaa Boston offers vegetarian dishes from the entire subcontinent but has plenty of south Indian options. Everything we've tried at this unassuming eatery has been fabulous, and the banana leaf-lined plates are a charming touch. The south Indian fare includes silky vegetable chetti-nadu curry, masala dosas (crispy crepes made of rice and lentil flour, stuffed with chunks of spicy potatoes), and fried idly (steamed rice patties sauteed with onions and spices). Other clear winners are the palak paneer (verdant, smoky with cumin, and studded with chunks of farmers' cheese) and malai kofta curry (tender vegetable dumplings bathed in a rich cream-and-cashew sauce).

* Cafe of India, 52A Brattle Street, Cambridge, 617-661-0683,;
* Masalaa Boston, 786 Boston Road/Route 3A, Billerica, 978-667-3443,

A Place For Everything...

I do put pen to paper -- or, really, fingers to keyboard, or pixels to screen -- occasionally for things other than travel gear and book reviews. Here's proof: A piece that ran in the Boston Globe's now-defunct "At Home" section, about using online resources to organize your life. My mom would be proud.

October 9, 2003

Find neat ideas on the Web

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

If you need to brush up on your organizational skills -- or gain some in a hurry -- there are plenty of websites that can help with scheduling, organizing, and decluttering. Many advise that you work slowly but steadily, scheduling a little time each day to tackle the clutter until it's gone. There's a lot of information out there, and sorting through it all can be a bit overwhelming; luckily, most websites that deal with organization are pretty well organized themselves. Here's a run-down on some of the best ones we've found. ... [More]

Going "Against Gravity"

"Against Gravity" is another semi-autobiographical novel, this one by Farnoosh Moshiri, a refugee from Iran who was forced to flee in 1983 during the turmoil of the Iranian Revolution. She's now a professor of literature at Syracuse University (my Alma Mater, though she wasn't there when I was a student), the winner of several literary awards and the author of two other novels and a book of short stories.

February 2, 2006

Three lives intersect, beautifully, in 'Against Gravity'

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

HIV-positive, irritatingly melodramatic, and bitter about being ''pushed out" of life by tuberculosis, Madison Kirby is ripe for redemption, and he's decided that his new neighbor is his savior. ''There was hope. There was hope," he says. ''There was a small woman with large dark eyes who could save me. Yes, she was the only one who could save me. My Persian -- Roya." ... [More]

Beyond "Little Women"

I'll admit it: As a child, reading Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women," I wanted to be Jo. She was the spirited one, the writer, the one the whole family depended on. Most people are aware that Jo was based on Alcott herself, and the Marches were modeled on the Alcott family. But there was a lot more to the author than her iconic children's stories, as the essays in "Alcott in Her Own Time," edited by Daniel Shealy, make clear.

September 8, 2005

Revealing essays bring Alcott to life

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Louisa May Alcott is best known for writing classic children's stories, but there was more to the New England author and activist than met the eye. ''Alcott in Her Own Time" is a collection of letters and essays written by people who knew her before, during, and after the success of ''Little Women," offering a detailed look at her life, her family, and what it was like to live in 19th-century Massachusetts. ... [More]

Delving Into the World of Haute Cuisine

Have I mentioned I love food? Reading it, writing it, eating it. Rudolph Chelminski's ''The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine" is an in-depth look at one of the biggest events in the food world -- the 2003 death of Bernard Loiseau.

May 30, 2005

Probing the tragic end of a star French chef

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Chefs are the rock stars of France. So when Bernard Loiseau, a king of modern French cooking and a darling of the French media, killed himself in February 2003, the country reacted with disbelief. . ... [More]

Sink Your Teeth Into This

I love the work of Octavia Butler. If you haven't read any of her books, you should consider picking one up, even if you're not a sci-fi fan. They are truly extraordinary. There are very few African-American female science-fiction writers; Butler's work earned her both the Hugo and the Nebula awards, as well as a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Grant.

When I read her newest novel, "Fledgling," I was excited to begin what was sure to become a fascinating new series. Unfortunately, we'll never see the next installment. Butler passed away on Feb. 24, 2006, after a fall at her home in Seattle. She was 58.

January 5, 2006

In this vampire tale, there's a lot to drink in

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Octavia E. Butler, the first successful female African-American science-fiction writer and a winner of a MacArthur Foundation ''genius" grant, is skilled at persuading her readers to reconsider social norms while immersing them in the alternate reality she's created. The settings are usually familiar (Los Angeles a few years from now, for example), and her main characters seem fairly ordinary -- at least, at first. Bit by bit, she reveals the unusual -- an extraterrestrial parasite searching for hosts, an evolutionary freak of nature that can morph from human to animal, a woman who can slip through time -- and, by then, the reader is hooked. ... [More]

New Dad? He's Got Your Back

When I saw this book, I just had to pick it up -- what kind of advice was being shopped around to new fathers? Surely something more than what I read as stepmom or a mom-to-be. Christopher Healy's book, Pop Culture: The Sane Man’s Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood, should be manditory gift-giving at baby showers. I reviewed it recently for The Boston Globe.

June 1, 2006

Guide offers wit and wisdom for first-time dads

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

There seems to be an endless supply of reference books available for women who are searching for witty, easy-to-understand, up-to-date information about pregnancy and motherhood. But where is a first-time father supposed to turn?

Christopher Healy has an answer. ``Pop Culture: The Sane Man's Guide to the Insane World of New Fatherhood" delivers sound advice with a clear, hip, humorous attitude. For simplicity's sake, the book is written as though the reader is a part of a traditional, married, heterosexual couple, but the author is quick to point out in his introduction that this is a book for all dads, including ``single dads, divorced dads, gay dads, cohabitating but unmarried dads, nonbiological dads, or any combination of the above." That said, it's a great book for new moms to read, too, because it gives them a chance to see things from their partner's perspective. Besides, most new parents, regardless of gender, often need a little help navigating the rough terrain of baby- and toddler-hood.

This book deals as much with the idea of being a parent as it does the dirty, day-to-day details. The first 70 or so pages are dedicated to what goes on before the baby arrives -- pregnancy, labor , and delivery -- and the issues that a soon-to-be father may face during those times. Healy keeps things light, offering, among other things, a handy list identifying the types of people one is likely to meet when sharing pregnancy news. (He divides them into five categories, including ``Platitude Spewers" and ``Head Shakers," describing each type and the threat it poses to your sanity.)

Healy's writing style is entertaining and refreshingly blunt. ``When it comes to in utero education, there are two distinct schools of thought," he writes. ``The first being that the intricate composition of classical music will stimulate growth in the spatial-learning centers of your baby's brain, the second being that the first is a load of crap." He answers questions that many new parents, but especially fathers, have but are afraid to ask: What do I do when my kid has a play date? (Parents are expected to stay for the whole thing.) Can't I just drop my child off at her friend's birthday party, like our parents did when we were kids? (Nope.) What do I do when people think I'm incompetent just because I'm male? (There are several options, but ignoring them helps.)

The book can be a little simplistic at times, and the quips sprinkled throughout are more amusing if you read the book in short bursts -- which, really, is how books like this are supposed to be read. It's a quick read, too, which is good, since new parents don't have a lot of free time.

It's packed with survival tips, road rules, and tales from the trenches. It's also a reference tool with plenty of information on everything from what not to wear (expensive shirts + spit-up = not a good look) to a who's who in the world of children's music to how to cope with mind-numbing kids' television programs and noisy toys. Healy also manages to touch on a few hot-button topics (TV or no TV? Work full time or stay home with the kids?) without choosing sides, carefully illustrating the pros and cons of each.

Best of all, ``Pop Culture" is peppered with advice and anecdotes from real-life fathers that prove to a nervous new dad that he's not alone. ``One dad told me about a time he was walking down the street singing the `Elmo's World' theme when he walked past another man in a business suit," Healy writes. ``The other guy joined in with him." And it offers words of wisdom for mothers, extended relatives, and non-parents alike: "Don't ever ask a father if he's babysitting. That's the worst thing you can say to a dad."

Play Ball!

Here's that notable exception I was talking about: Dan Graziano, and his debut novel, "I Think She's Trying to Tell Me Something." The thing about this N.J.-based sportswriter-turned-novelist is his ability to make you feel like you're sitting at a bar, having a beer with his characters. They're that familiar. And that makes his books fun.

December 1, 2005

For sportswriter, dating's no longer a game

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Jack Byrnes has issues with women. And the biggest issue he has right now is that the ones he never wanted to see again have come back to haunt him.

In the days leading up to his 30th birthday, this New York-based sportswriter has run into not one but five of his former girlfriends in unlikely -- and, therefore, all the more disturbing -- places. As he is forced to revisit each of the failed relationships, he starts to think about what lesson life is trying to teach him and whether he can make the grade before the love of his life passes him by. ... [More]

Diary of a What?

I'm not a big fan of chick-lit, though every once in a while I'll pick up something from that genre. I usually regret it. (There are a few notable exceptions -- see the lad-lit books written by Dan Graziano, for one). "Diary of a Married Call Girl" caught my eye because I used to read Tracy Quan's column on many years ago.

October 6, 2005

'Diary' reveals too much and not enough

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

This is the second installment by Tracy Quan in the continuing adventures of Nancy Chan, upscale Manhattan escort. She's still working the streets and five-star hotels of the city, except now there's a twist: She's married.

''Diary of a Married Call Girl" is mostly what it claims to be. Yes, it's got plenty of sex. Yes, it's irreverent. Yes, it's a new perspective on infidelity and modern marriage. But is it good? ... [More]

A Harrowing and Heart-Felt Parsi Memoir

Full disclosure: I am a Zoroastrian, related, on my mother's side, to the Parsis that author Thrity Umrigar writes about in her memoir, "First Darling of the Morning." Which is probably why her book really touched a chord with me. Then again, Umrigar is a wonderful writer -- the book touched a chord in many readers, regardless of their heritage.

May 19, 2004

Memoir details life in a little-seen India

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Thrity Umrigar has a knack for capturing people's quirks. In her second book, "First Darling of the Morning: Selected Memories of an Indian Childhood," she unflinchingly takes on her own, as well as those of her family, giving readers a vivid glimpse into an unfamiliar part of India's population.

Even now, the popular view of India is one of dusty villages, fiery curries, and religious struggle. But India is much more than that, and Umrigar focuses on the part into which she was born: the Parsi community, descended from people who fled Persia to avoid religious persecution under Alexander the Great. Though many of them today live in diaspora, Parsis form a curious and obscure middle class in Bombay that prides itself on its education and exclusivity. ... [More]

You Are What You Eat (*Shudder*)

If you're still not washing your produce, avoiding plastic, and buying hormone-free milk, after reading Randall Fitzgerald's "The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health," you may change your mind. The book makes a lot of good points; my only quibble was... well... you can read that in my review, below.

July 6, 2006

Sounding the alarm on a toxic `synergy'

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

The level of environmental pollution we live with may not surprise anyone anymore. But what about the idea that we may be born with harmful neurotoxins in our systems? And that the food we eat and the medicine we take may be making us sicker?

Randall Fitzgerald's interest in the topic was triggered by his own experience with nontraditional medicine and the sudden onset of severe medical problems within his circle .

``Among my friends and acquaintances, all of whom are baby boomers like me, or younger, three are battling various forms of cancer, three others are in remission from cancer, two have come down with multiple sclerosis, one man and one woman have AIDS, two people suffer from Parkinson's disease in its advanced stages, two in their 30s have Crohn's disease , and three others endure such severe bouts of migraines and food allergies that doctors say, only half-jokingly, they must be `allergic to civilization,' " he writes in the introduction to his new book, ``The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health."

For Fitzgerald, a journalist who has written for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, the crux of the lie cited in his title is the idea that, in general, ``lab-created synthetics are as benign as -- and more effective than -- naturally occurring food and medicines."

It started with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, he says, because that lulled people into thinking the government was looking out for their best interests and the food and medicines they were ingesting were safe and well tested. It was a time of `` a better life through chemistry," with the rise of heavily processed foods, fluoridated and chlorinated water, and do-it-all products, most of them approved for general use under the assumption that tiny doses of anything probably couldn't be harmful.

But worse than the rapidly increasing number of chemicals and synthetics ``fortifying" our lives (or disguised as ``natural flavoring" or ``inert ingredients") is the fact that while some additives are tested for toxicity individually, virtually none are tested in combination, and little thought was given to how they could build up in our bodies over time.

According to Fitzgerald, when various chemicals are combined -- say, monosodium glutamate ( MSG) and aspartame, an artificial sweetener, which are used together to enhance flavor in a myriad of processed foods -- the toxic elements of each are magnified exponentially. He calls this phenomenon ``synergy."

``What makes synergy so scary for scientists and government regulators," Fitzgerald writes, ``is how it profoundly challenges all traditional risk analysis calculations of whether chemicals in products, food, water, or medicines pose a threat to human health."

Fitzgerald urges readers to avoid toxins in general, eat raw or ``pure" foods, and be skeptical of Western medicine, but short of visiting the same sort of extreme detoxification program he does, the prospects don't seem very good.

The book is disconcerting -- of course, it's supposed to be. But what's especially troubling is that, while Fitzgerald lists his sources in a bibliography at the back of the book, the chapters themselves have no footnotes, making statements attributed to ``one biologist who co-authored the study" or information gleaned from ``an American Heart Association journal" seem sensationalistic and unreliable.

Key details are missing in several of his examples (as when he declares that ``Two products designed to kill dust mites . . . quickly generated hundreds of health complaints from consumers" without naming the products or the health issues), and he cites the same handful of statistics in so many places that he undermines their impact and credibility.

The success stories in the last chapters are amazing -- a woman who cured her colon cancer by consuming large quantities of wheatgrass juice, a woman with terminal stage IV lung cancer who recovered thanks to a strict macrobiotic diet, a 71-year-old emphysema patient who healed herself with herbal remedies and by strengthening her lungs with exercise -- but they are also extreme situations not faced by most people and, quite frankly, hard to believe.

Though filled with interesting points, including a ``Toxicity Questionnaire" and a detailed timeline that Fitzgerald dramatically calls ``The Slippery Slope Index," ``The Hundred-Year Lie" ends up seeming more alarmist than authoritative.


A Look at Early Christianity

I'm fascinated by the world's major religions -- how they're different, what they have in common, how they've evolved over the years. "The Missing Gospels" by Darell L. Bock (who wrote "Breaking the DaVinci Code," the rebuttal to Dan Brown's controversial novel) is an excellent academic look at how the so-called "lost gospels" shed light on Christianity's earliest days.

August 3, 2006

'Gospels' considers diverse early Christianity

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

A New Testament specialist and professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, Darrell Bock offers a crash course in early Christianity with his new book, "The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities." In it, he examines the recent claims that the ``new" or ``lost" gospels -- also known as the ``Gnostic Gospels" discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945, may prove that Christianity as we know it today has changed significantly from its early forms. ... [More]

A gorgeous work of historical fiction

"Our Lives Are the Rivers" by Jaime Manrique is a vivid, fictionalized account of the life of a real heroine -- Manuela Saenz, who, along with General Simon Bolivar, helped lead several South American countries to independence.

March 7, 2006

A vivid portrait of a South American heroine

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

The early to mid-1800s were a bloody and brutal time in South America, as Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela struggled for independence from Spain. Author Jaime Manrique focuses on that period in ''Our Lives Are the Rivers," viewing history through the eyes of one of South America's biggest heroines, Manuela Sáenz.

Beautiful, brash, impulsive, and passionate, Sáenz was a spy for the revolutionaries and the mistress of their leader, Venezuela-born General Simón Bolìvar. The novel is told from her point of view and those of her loyal slaves... [More]

It's a Water Bottle! It's a Lantern!

This little gadget takes multifunctionality to a higher level. Screw the special lid onto almost any clear, wide-mouth water bottle to turn it into a light. Brilliant!

April 22, 2007

If you go out in the woods tonight

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

This unique little lid lets your water bottle double as a lantern. The Firefly by Guyot Designs fits on all standard wide-mouth bottles; its small LED light illuminates the entire container. The light level is adjustable, so you can dim it enough to make a softly glowing night light or dial it up high enough to read by. The LED is sealed in a compartment, so it won't be affected by whatever you're drinking, and the device can be used no matter if your water bottle is right side up, upside down, or rolling around on its side. The Firefly costs about $20 and is available at REI stores (800-426-4840, ), Eastern Mountain Sports stores (888-463-6367, ), and online at [More]

McDonald's and Their Not-Really-Gluten-Free Fries

I'm an avid food reader who enjoys writing about food whenever I can. I'm also stepmom to an amazing 9-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism that is managed, in part, by his being on a gluten-free, casein-free diet.

The intersection of food and news is a tiny one, and this story fit the bill. McDonald's has since updated their ingredient information to reflect that their fries do, in fact, contain wheat and dairy (and, bizarrely, beef flavoring). I still won't eat there, though.

February 22, 2006

Anger sizzles over seasoning used in McDonald's fries

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Kathleen Fischbach's 6-year-old son, Andy, has autism as well as celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten, the protein found in wheat and many other grains. He is also sensitive to casein, a dairy protein. On his strict gluten- and casein-free diet, known as GFCF, anything with wheat or dairy in it -- bread, pasta, cheese, almost all fast food -- is off limits. But McDonald's french fries were a ''safe" treat.

Not any more.

As news broke last week that the fast-food giant has been using wheat and dairy ingredients to flavor its fries for years, people in the celiac and autistic communities were up in arms. As of Friday, at least three lawsuits had been filed against McDonald's. For those with celiac disease, even a trace of gluten can lead to severe intestinal damage; for many autistic children, gluten and casein cause hyperactive behavior and a host of gastrointestinal problems. ... [More]

A Lesson in Sexual Politics

"Dirty Blonde and Half-Cuban" by Lisa Wixon is based on the author's actual experience in Cuba. (There's been some controversey about that claim, though I couldn't find anything about it to which to link here.) The book was an interesting and provocative read, whether you take it with a grain of salt or not.

August 4, 2005

A lesson in Cuba's sexual politics

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

... A diplomat's daughter born in Cuba, 25-year-old Alysia returns there on a yearlong student visa to look for her real father, a Cuban translator with whom her mother had an affair. With the US embargo in place, she is cut off from her life in the United States as she struggles to find Jose Antonio, using her late mother's diaries as a guide. During her search she discovers how deeply she identifies with a country that she's only just learned is her own. ... [More]

What to do in Boston with Kids

Every once in a while, I get to wear my Travel hat and my Book Critic hat at the same time. Fodor's new guide, Around Boston with Kids, gave me a chance to do so recently. This was online, on the Globe's Explore New England site.

August 12, 2007

From obscure to obvious, the top local kid stops

By Lylah Alphonse, Globe Staff

Whether a family hails from Fitchburg or Florida, Fodor's "Around Boston With Kids" has something to amuse the offspring. The small, slim volume highlights 68 Boston-area attractions, listed in alphabetical order and again by general location, with a little bonus section of games kids can play while they wait in line. ... [More]

Be a Grown-Up For a Day

Wannado City in Sunrise, Fla., is one of my favorite places to take kids for the day. All kids of amazing activities, from being a fireman (with a fake "burning" building and actual water shooting out of the actual hose) to putting out an actual newspaper to making pizza (that you get to eat), kids get to earn money for trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.

February 26, 2006

Where grown-up jobs are kids' stuff

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Does your child want to be a firefighter when she grows up? How about a doctor, an actor, a disc jockey? They are all options at Wannado City, a gigantic, reality-based indoor theme park that takes ''learning on the job" to a whole new level. ... [More]

How to Pack

I wrote a piece for the Globe's Travel section about how to cram everything two adults need for a week-long getaway into one, standard-size, rolling carryon suitcase. Needless to say, you have to not mind wearing the same things over and over again in order to do this.

June 4, 2006

Pack it in
Think light, mix and match, and lose the shoes

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

They are common sights at airports: Someone frantically transferring items from one bag to another in order to dodge a steep ‘‘overweight baggage’’ charge. International travelers sitting on suitcases, trying to get them closed after a customs official had ordered them opened for inspection. And who hasn’t arrived at their destination only to discover that `in the confusion of packing they left some essential item on a bed back home? There are ways to avoid these problems. ... [More]

Plus the sidebars: links to some great packing tips, the 411 on getting good luggage, instructions on how to properly fold a shirt, the online chat about the whole package, and a cool, interactive graphic.

The graphic and layout, done by the Globe's fabulous Josue Evilla, was just amazing. Click on the pictures below to check them out!

A cache of old Get in Gear columns

From 2001 through 2004, I wrote a weekly column about travel-related gadges for the Globe. It was called "Get in Gear." It got canned for space in 2004, but was resurrected by a new Travel editor in 2006, when it was renamed "Good to Go." Starting in May 2008, it'll be called "Gearing Up." The name changes, but the focus stays the same!

I stumbled on a cache of old "Get in Gear" columns... click on the "More" (or, on the older ones, the actual title) to see what gadgets were cool way back when!

Sketching, Running, Perfume Pens [More ]
Fun, Fido, First Aid [More ]
Hats, Money Clips, Space Bags [ More ]
Keep an eye on your heart and your clothes in order [ More ]
Health on the road and teeing [ More ]
Conveience and beautyA scarf, a stroller, and a travel tray [ More ]
Toiletries for travel [ More ]
Let there be light! And warmth! And trvia! [ More ]
In the car. [ More ]
Troubleshotting gadgets. [ More ]
Eat, think, and buy memory. [ More ]
Waking up right. [ More ]
Travel technology. [ More ]
Stay clean, sharp, and flexible. [ More ]
Mama's got a brand new bag. [ More ]
Family fun on the road. [ More ]
Small comforts. [ More ]
Feeding the senses: smell, taste, touch. [ More ]
Beating those cold, dark days. [ More ]
High-altitude homeopathy. [ More ]
Walk and think at the same time. [ More ]
Gear for winter travel. [ More ]
Smooth, safe, and soulful. [ More ]
Time (and mind) management. [ More ]
A bag in the hand. [ More ]
Accessorize on the road. [ More ]
Gadgets on the go. [ More ]
Time for tea. [ More ]
Clothes, collar, keys. [ More ]
Looking for security. [ More ]
It's the bees' knees. [ More ]
Drink, pack, be merry. [ More ]
Plump up your pillow, tires, and immune system. [ More ]
Animal, vegetable, governmental. [ More ]
Fighting the elements. [ More ]
Skirt, bag, and bowl. [ More ]
Sight, smell, touch. [ More ]
Reading and running. [ More ]
Kids, sleeping, packing on the road. [ More ]
High-tech travel gear for kids. [ More ]
Drink, think, and be merry. [ More ]
Accessories for folks on the go. [ More ]
Food and drink. [ More ]
Bells, tags, tape. [ More ]
Babies, bikes, and doves. [ More ]
Stay Caffeinated. [ More ]
Living it up. [ More ]
Living rough
Save your back, your brain, and your tea cup
Things that are easy to lose
Coffee, games, blankets
Bags, bars, and brush
Words on the water
A picnic in the park
Points of light
Doggie bags
Putting on the Ritz
Plan, listen, carry
West at the second star
Children, water, light
Cruising the light fantastic
Handy, dandy items
Getting comfortable
High tech for travelers
Bags, blotting, and boogie boards
A few of my favorite things
Pets, rocks, clothes
Take Yuppie paradise with you
Bags, shoes, and puppy dogs tails
High-tech gadgets
Staying warm on the road
Sharp creases, good ears, environmental tunes
Books, coffee, and Zen chimes
On the road again
Watch where you're going!
Gadgets for the holidays
Fun in the cold
Bags, torches and filters
Binocs, books and anti-barfing
Phones, CDs and fresh-scent luggage
Folders, cubes, wipes and water
Clocks, locks and phones

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Talking Books on WGBH-TV's "Greater Boston"

In December, I made my first appearance on the WGBH's "Greater Boston," where I was on a panel discussing great books to give for the holidays. My choices? "The Fledgling" by Octavia Butler (fantastic, realistic science fiction), "Against Gravity" by Farnoosh Moshiri (a beautiful, semi-autobiographical story), and "The White Masai" by Corrine Hofmann (a memoir about a European woman who goes to live among the Masai).

You can watch the video here (scroll to the bottom of the page for the link!)

Recently, I was invited back to talk about books on WGBH's "Greater Boston"; this time we were focusing on summer reading. I decided I'd keep things light and chose three books you'd actually want to take to the beach -- "The Teahouse Fire" by Ellis Avery (amazing historial fiction set in 1800s Japan), "The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine" by Steve Rinella (non-fiction, Rinella decides to hunt and gather all of the ingredients with which to cook a meal based on several arcane recipes), and "The Ultimatum" by Dan Graziano (I call it my guilty pleasure -- total lad lit, but well-written and funny).

... You can watch the video here (scroll down to the bottom for the link).

Just for Reference

Lylah M. Alphonse -- WriteEditRepeat (at) gmail (dot) com

I’m a Boston-based journalist with nearly 20 years of full-time experience writing and editing for print; I’ve been immersed in writing and editing online since 2007. My work has appeared in, been referenced by, or linked to by many publications and websites, including The New York Times, US News and World Report,, The Daily Mail, The Huffington Post,, and others. For references and recommendations, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

U.S. News & World Report (June 2013-present). As the Managing Editor for Special Reports at U.S. News & World Report, I'm responsible for conceiving and executing special projects covering a wide range of issues, from the hospital industry to STEM education. I hire and edit staff and freelance writers, coordinate with our public relations, advertising, and marketing teams, and make sure that all content is engaging, newsworthy, and timely. (March 2008-June 2013): As a senior editor and writer at Yahoo!’s Shine I covered news, politics, health, parenting, and trend stories for Shine and I've conducted exclusive on-camera interviews with First Lady Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, and Valerie Jarrett for, launched Y! Shine's "Women in Politics" section for the 2012 election cycle, and written more than 1,100 features, news analysis, women's lifestyle pieces, and trend stories for the front page of I earned recognition in Yahoo!'s 2012 world-wide Editorial Awards, and built up a track record of creating content that generates discussion (many of my front page stories have garnered more than 20,000 comments each) and goes viral (my work has been picked up by the Daily Mail, local news stations, Rush Limbaugh, The New York Times, and others). In 2011 I earned a Yahoo! Bravo for my five-part on-camera exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. Archive: (Jan. 2009-Jan. 2011): I wrote the In the Parenthood column for The Boston Globe and online at, offering information on parenting news, tips, and trends, as well as resources and discussions about everything from autism to current events to evergreen parenting issues.

The Boston Globe (July. 1994-Nov. 2010):

+Boston Globe Sunday Magazine (April 2005-Nov. 2010): As a copy editor, I was responsible for editing and fact-checking articles, including award-winning pieces by Neil Swidey, Charles P. Pierce, and others. Also responsible for coordinating and processing content for use online at

+CCI project (May 2003-April 2005): During my time in IT, I was responsible for coordinating and implementing the roll-out of new front-end system for the Boston Globe, which gave me the opportunity to dive in and work in every single department at the newspaper. As a member of the CCI team I headed up the development of design and workflow issues for the Globe's advertising department, taught classes on using CCI and other new technology, and wrote original documentation for advertising and production personnel.

+ National/Foreign News (July 1999-May 2003): My nearly four years as the Assistant News Editor for National news at the Globe started on the day John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane went down off the coast of Massachusetts. I assisted in coordinating coverage for that and for the Bush/Gore election. While stuck in India and Europe during 9/11, I reported on the impact of the terrorist attacks on US citizens abroad. Back in Boston, I was once again responsible for assigning, evaluating, and editing staff-written stories, selecting and editing wire copy, assigning and selecting photos, assigning and editing graphics, recruiting freelancers, supervising solo the production of late editions, and working with staff members in Washington D.C. and on assignment throughout the US. Worked directly with writers including Pulitzer winners David Shribman and Gareth Cook, best-selling author Robert Schlessinger, and award-winning journalists such as Anne Kornblut, Susan Milligan, and others.

+ Living/Arts (July 1994-July 1999): While on the Living/Arts copy desk, I successfully designed and implemented an in-depth multi-departmental news index for the Boston Globe's Sunday paper, a version of which is still in use today. I was responsible for editing staff and wire copy for daily Living and Arts coverage, approving stories and art, writing headlines, captions and other display type, proofreading pages, designing and paginating inside pages, scheduling and managing 14 copy editors (July 1997-July 1999), and editing, designing, and supervising production of Music, Food, Life at Home, Calendar Magazine, Brides and TV Weekly sections.

+ Writing (Sept. 1994-Nov. 2010): At The Boston Globe and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, I wrote news stories (9/11 coverage from Europe, shuttle explosion from India), travel trend stories (group travel, destination pieces, packing tips), hard and soft feature stories (schoolchildren and beer in Belgium, in-depth interviews with local celebrities and up-and-coming innovators), restaurant reviews (in Globe Northwest and Calendar sections), design features (in the Globe Magazine), profiles (in the Globe Magazine), first-person essays (in the Living/Arts section and the Globe Magazine), book reviews (Living/Arts), family-friendly activities (Bring the Family column in Living/Arts), and product reviews (Shop Online, a column about online shopping, appeared in the Life at Home section from July 1998 through Jan. 2004. My column about travel-related gear and gadgets appeared in the Sunday Travel section under different names from Oct. 2001 to November 2010. My parenting column, In the Parenthood, ran in the Living/Arts section and online at For clips, please see and (Nov. 2007-Dec. 2011): At Work It, Mom!, I wrote The 36-Hour Day, a twice-weekly blog about work-life balance, frugal living, and juggling career and parenthood, and Affordable Luxuries, a daily personal shopping guide for busy working parents. As managing editor of the site, I was responsible for managing and generating content geared toward the modern working mother. I wrote quick tips, check lists, articles, interviews, slide shows, and other general content,  produced slideshows, review products, coordinate giveaways and other events to boost traffic, edit user-generated content (UGC), and solicited and edited copy from freelance writers ranging from bloggers to bestselling book authors. I worked directly with our CEO to create and implement our editorial schedule, and am very involved in SEO and long-term planning of content for the site.

Provoices Correspondent, (Dec. 2009-March 2010): As a member of the short-lived professional team at this international citizen-journalism site, I wrote about features, work-life balance, and travel news on a weekly basis for readers around the world. You can find my articles here.

Online coordinator, The Boston Globe Magazine (June 2009-Nov. 2010): After a long struggle to gain readership online, I volunteered to create and implement a system for coordinating and planning multimedia coverage for The Boston Globe Magazine at In addition to my work with the print version of the Globe Magazine, I selected, processed, and edited Magazine content for, and worked closely with content producers at to promote and build a larger audience for The Boston Globe Magazine online. Within the first month of my taking on this responsibility, pageviews at jumped 169 percent.

The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y. (Jan. 1993-June 1994)

+ Acting assistant business editor (Jan. 1994-June 1994): Responsible for editing and producing weekly Business Extra section and yearly Progress/Annual Report.

+ Editor, Automotive section (May 1993-June 1994): Responsible for assigning and editing staff and wire copy, writing headlines, captions and other display type, selecting and preparing photos, designing and paginating section.

+ Copy editor and paginator, City Desk and Business Desk (Jan. 1993-June 1994): Responsible for editing staff and wire copy, writing headlines, captions and other display type, selecting and preparing photos, designing and paginating section.

The Princeton Packet, Princeton, N.J. (March 1990-Aug. 1992): Lifestyles writer, "Shoptalk" columnist, weddings editor, copy editor, and general assignment reporter

Other Related Experience

Consulting Editor, FEZANA Journal (2006-present)
Contributing Writer, Hamazor magazine, Parsiana magazine (2003-present)
Author, Triumph Over Discrimination: The Life Story of Farhang Mehr (Regal Press; ISBN 0-9709937-0-6) (2000).
Contributing writer, Interactions: A Thematic Reader, (Houghton Mifflin Co.) (1999)
Contributing writer, Our Times, 5th edition (Bedford Books) (1998)
Interviewer, New England Cable News. "Around the Globe," various segments (1996-2007)
Featured guest on Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” WGBH’s “Greater Boston," BAM radio networks, "You. Reinvented" series on
Contributing writer at,,,,, and other sites.

Related Skills

In-depth writing, reporting, and editing experience
Social media experience on multiple platforms
Blogging, blogger outreach, and community engagement experience
Managing and organizing others who work in-house and from remote locations
Content acquisition, organization, and management in print and online
Proficient on multiple blogging, CMS, and social media platforms
TV/webcast experience (live and taped, as interviewer and as guest)

Awards and Activities

+ Editorial Award,, for "In Defense of Gabby Douglas' Hair" ( (April 2013)
+ Featured speaker, Yahoo! Business & Human Rights Summit on Women, Technology, and Social/Digital Media (May 2012)
+ Yahoo! Bravo,, for five-part on-camera interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden ( (Nov. 2011)
+ Impact Award, The Boston Globe (implementation of CCI in Calendar Magazine, Nov. 2004)
+ Impact Award, The Boston Globe (creation of Apartment Guide advertising supplement, summer 2004)
+ S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.; Professional Gallery and Alumni Hall of Fame inductee (2000)
+ Member, Asian American Journalists Association (2000-present)
+ Member, South Asian Journalists Association (2001-present)
+ Member, Zoroastrian Women’s International Network (2001-present)
+ Member, Zoroastrian Association of the Greater Boston Area (1999-present)


S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y.; Bachelor of Science, Newspaper Journalism, May 1994 (cum laude), minors in literature and psychology

The Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg, Fla.; "The Narrative Voice" (2000), "Effective Story Editing" (2002)

A layered look into 18th-century Japan

A review of "The Teahouse Fire" by Ellis Avery. I absolutely adored this book, and talked about it on WGBH's "Greater Boston" in July as well. (You can watch that video here.) What struck me most was how layered and nuanced the story is. Avery is a magnificent writer, yes, but the premis itself really struck a chord with me as well.

February 8, 2007

'Teahouse' is a love story infused with Japanese historical detail

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Orphaned and lonely in a foreign land, 9-year-old Aurelia Bernard enters a Shinto shrine and uses knowledge learned only hours before to change her fate. "I walked into the shrine through the red arch and struck the bell. I bowed twice. I clapped twice. I whispered to the foreign goddess and bowed again. And then I heard the shouts and the fire. What I asked for? Any life but this one."... [More]

Baby on board for the long haul

Traveling with a toddler means juggling plenty of gear -- we routinely end up with more stuff for the tiniest person in our group than for the rest of us put together! The Sit 'n' Stroll makes things so much easier -- it converts from a forward- or rear-facing carseat to a comfortable and easy-to-steer stroller in no time at all. I am seriously going to miss it terribly when our youngest outgrows it!

July 23, 2006

Baby on board for the long haul

By Lylah M. Alphonse, Globe Staff

Traveling with a toddler means juggling plenty of gear. Whether you buy your tot his own seat on the plane or not, you will probably need a car seat once you get to your destination. Maybe a booster seat, too. Not to mention a stroller for long walks, starting with the one from security to the terminal. The Sit 'n' Stroll from Triple Play [now by Lillygold] functions as all three. A set of heavy-duty wheels extend s and lock s quickly into place and can handle all kinds of terrain. With the wheels retracted, it is a comfortable rear-facing car seat for infants up to 30 pounds or a cushy, forward-facing seat for children 1 or older who weigh 20 to 40 pounds. It has an easy-to-use five-point harness system, and it is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for in-flight use (and is slim enough to fit the aisles of most commercial airplanes). Accessories such as a sunshade or a mesh bag can be purchased separately. The Sit 'n' Stroll costs about $200, is available online at , , and , and at Magic Beans
(312 Harvard St., Brookline; 617-264-2326 ), Right Start (104 Worcester St.,
Natick; 508-650-1271 ), or mail order at Safe Beginnings ( 13 Alexander Road,
Billerica; 978-670-7189)... [More]